BAR HARBOR—Creating a renewable energy future for Maine may help schools throughout the state ease their fiscal crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, A Climate To Thrive (ACTT), a nonprofit organization committed to making Mount Desert Island energy independent by 2030, helped the Mount Desert Island High School (MDIHS) install a solar array that is estimated to save nearly $1.5 million over the next 25 years. Having paid no upfront costs, the array is already having a positive impact on the school’s budget.
Three ACTT interns from the high school, Lily Crikelair, Ayano Ishimura and Ruby Mahoney, are working on a project to share MDI’s success story with over 150 high schools across Maine. The local solar project was led by the MDIHS ECO Team and ACTT, who streamlined the process as a model for others to follow. Two MDI students, Thomas Korstanje and Sirohi Kumar, received a grant during the school year to develop a white paper explaining the entire process of implementing a solar array at MDIHS. The process is simple and straightforward; it involves gathering data from 12 months of electric bills, getting bids from qualified solar contractors and reviewing proposals for quality and cost savings. The white paper and ACTT’s Solar Roadmap for Schools includes templates for Request for Proposals and other helpful resources that can guide schools in their own process.
This project to promote a transition to 100 percent solar electricity will not only significantly decrease Maine’s carbon footprint and help meet Maine’s new Renewable Portfolio Standard that renewable resources must account for 80 percent of electric sales by 2030, but it will also save a significant amount of money for the schools involved. Faced with the current economic crisis due to COVID-19, many schools are dealing with budget cuts. Transitioning to solar can help alleviate the damage.
The interns are contacting principals and have already generated serious interest among several schools. With help from the resource guides and their own interested students, teachers and local environmental organizations like ACTT, the schools could acquire serious proposals within six months and have projects completed within one to two years. Maine could potentially be the first state with 100 percent solar powered schools.